Boston Jerk Centre
Considering that Portland is the birthplace of jerk, Boston is hands-down one of the best recommendations in the area. Working from a series of open-air stalls, cooks will prepare incredible jerked pork, chicken, sausage, fish and lobster grilled to perfection while you wait. Of course there is fresh festival, breadfruit, sweet potato and rice and peas to accompany the meats, as well as natural juices, beers and straight-from-the-source coconut water. Boston is a leisurely thirty-minute drive from downtown Port Antonio, and well worth the journey.
Piggy’s Jerk Centre
They say the best jerk chicken is at Piggy’s, a “shack” right in the heart of Port Antonio. Piggy’s chicken is so juicy and perfectly spiced, you may want to go more than once. Make sure to try the festival as well, which is achieves a perfect balance of crunchy shell and doughy center. Portland is known as the “birthplace of jerk,” Piggy’s exemplifies that claim. They also serve fresh fish, and delicious sides such as rice and peas, grilled vegetables, and a mouth-watering fish soup.
Soosoomba Vegetarian Restaurant
Owner Sista P is a Rasta elder who has worked diligently in the local community for years, and approaches her championing of vegetarian eating and its dietary health benefits with the same vigour and selflessness that she does in all of her endeavors. The one-stop, hands-down full-time vegetarian menu is a must and just an hour’s drive away in Hope Bay. Your body will thank you, and you will thank yourself.
Jah T’s Fry Fry
The latest night food available or perhaps it should be called early morning food is in the Breastworks square heading south out of Port Antonio towards Moore Town. Jah T’s modest cook shop is sometimes open as day light heralds depending upon the steady flow of drinkers, clubbers, and party people still traveling home. Jah T, a Rasta elder, describes his food as ‘late night candle food.’
The cooking is simple and mouth-watering, prepared on coal stoves and terrific either hot, freshly out of the pot or cooler from his glass display case on the counter. The fish dishes, plantains and dumplings are all cooked in coconut oil and especially the freshly grated local supply. His mix of dumplings, plantain, saltfish, and ackee with steamed vegetables are bar none, at any hour of the day or night.
Named for its dramatic location, Cliff Hanger sits atop a sea cliff, 80 feet above the waves so that it literally appears to be hanging from the cliffs. Sip on a house-made cocktail at the well-appointed bar while enjoying an expansive view of the horizon. Then indulge in a delicious meal of seasonal specials such as fresh red snapper, honey curried shrimp, lobster sweet shells, and Cliff Hanger’s signature platter, Drunken Lionfish – named because it’s simmered in both white wine and Red Stripe beer, a heady mix indeed. This relaxing enclave, where it almost feels like you’re at the edge of the world, promises to capture both your imagination and your appetite in equal measure.
The story behind Solider Camp is as intriguing as its name. When Everold Daley, an ex-US army man who had been based for years in New York, returned to Jamaica, he found a lot of the local restaurant cooking to be bland, and their usage of low-quality cooking oils and MSG unacceptable. So he decided to open a restaurant that served the kind of food he would enjoy. His charming 20 seat interior-to-exterior restaurant is highlighted by military signage, flags, and insignia. One of the favorite items on the menu is crayfish cooked in fresh coconut milk, brought in daily from the Rio Grande by local fisherman. You can also opt for the curry goat or baked chicken, which is incredibly succulent and almost drips off the bone. The curried shrimp is wonderully flavorful, and best enjoyed when accompanied by a cold beer or a ‘bring your own’ wine libation.
Cynthia and Painta have been running this bar/restaurant combo on Winnifred beach for 16 years, feeding local Port Antonians who flock to the beach every holiday and weekend, and large numbers of visitors from abroad, many of them repeat guests who have come to love the natural calm of the beach and Cynthia’s excellent Jamaican cuisine. You can choose to have your chicken, fish or lobster (when in season) prepared to your liking. The steamed fish is excellent, as are the brown stew, fried, and grilled fish offerings. Enjoy sides of roasted breadfruit, plantain, callaloo, steamed cabbage, chopped raw vegetables or a simple salad. Basically, anything you order is satisfaction guaranteed.
Portland Jerk Centre
There’s no better place to sample true jerk dish than in Port Antonio, the spiritual capital and birthplace of the original preparation technique. For a real experience in local jerk – cooked long and slow over smoldering green pimiento twigs – head to the Jerk Centre, which is a popular favorite of Port Antonio locals. Treat yourself to the Scotch bonnet infused dishes, so delicious and fiery, you may need to wash it down with a Red Stripe beer. In addition to jerk, there’s an assortment of cooked meals, tasty baked goods, and snacks. The best part is that it keeps long hours for hungry citizens looking to satisfy a late night craving.
Belinda’s Riverside Restaurant
One of the best parts of taking a luxurious rafting ride down the Rio Grande is a stop-off for lunch at Belinda’s Riverside Restaurant. Belinda runs this small eatery under a rustic-looking palm frond roof with bamboo supports just as her mother Betty did for decades before. She continues the tradition of cooking some of the most delicious local dishes, including her signature Crayfish Coconut Rundown, which is made from the juice of grated coconut- simmered to create a thick sauce-curry powder, fresh herbs, and just a hint of Scotch bonnet pepper; the blend creates a burst of mouthwatering flavors. Also highly recommended are her curried or fricassee chicken – the chickens are organically reared in Belinda’s home yard, the herbs and seasonings are all locally grown too – the result is one of the most flavorsome plates you can imagine. All meals come with an expansive array of sides from fried plantain to roast breadfruit, rice and peas and even a couple of dumplings on every plate.